Hello! Thought I’d pull my head out of the stack of comics I am catching up on to bring you the not-entirely-latest-but-most-recent-I-have-finished review of Ultimate Spider-Man. No fear though, I have read issue #153 and will have that one geared up to deliver to you this weekend, followed by a super-special-magical-double-sized review of #150 (levels of superiority, specialty and magical-ness are subject to change). Somewhere in there will be the latest New Avengers review where (spoiler alert) Spidey is late in protecting another ally from harm! Oh noes! For now, let’s Prince of Persia this story and head back two issues with Ultimate Spidey.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #151
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorists: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: David Lafuente & Justin Ponsor
Plot: One month ago, Black Cat is perched on a rooftop with the Kingpin in her gun’s sights. With his head in her crosshairs, she hesitated before pulling the trigger. A bolt of energy from somewhere within the office hits the Kingpin and the crime lord tumbled backward through the window. Black Cat watched in silent horror as his rotund body fell to the street. The murderer, seen now to be Mysterio, came to the window and Black Cat fled after taking one look at him through the scope of her gun.
Two weeks after the assassination, Black Cat returns to loot the former kingpin of crime’s office. Using high-tech gadgets, she locates a safe and, in a miraculous feat of strength, rips the vault from the wall. Mysterio surprises Black Cat from behind and appears flattered when Black Cat reveals that she knows who he is. He offers her a job in his new criminal empire, but she turns him down. Black Cat states she is only interested in the contents of the safe and will go on her way. Mysterio turns his gun on her.
The Black Cat’s “good luck powers” cause Mysterio’s gun to malfunction, and she pounces, kicking out at Mysterio before he gains the upper hand. He hits her with his energy beam and sends her slamming into the glass window. Black Cat leaps out the window and swings away to lick her wounds. She leaves behind the safe, the contents of which leave Mysterio speechless.
Now, at lunchtime in Midtown High School, Peter Parker anxiously watches his cell phone, waiting for the runaway Gwen Stacy to call him. Peter is joined by the Iceman, Bobby Drake; and the Human Torch, Johnny Storm. Bobby asks Peter if he is worried about his after-school super hero training and Johnny arrogantly tells Peter that part of the reason Gwen had to leave was due to the pressure of living with a celebrity like himself.
The group is unexpectedly joined by the new girl at school, Lana Baumgartner, better known as the younger half of the foul-mouthed, mother-daughter super villain team, the Bombshells. When Peter admits that he shared her identity and background with his friends, Lana asks them to keep it secret. Peter and Johnny reassure Lana that her secret is safe; Bobby awkwardly asks her out.
Aunt May is sitting in her car leaving another message for Gwen on her cell phone. She cries into the phone and begs her to come home. A distraught May is startled when Gwen knocks on her car window. May jumps from the vehicle and hugs the young girl for whom she has come to care deeply. Gwen admits that she went to go visit her mother, to see if the two could reconcile. The two had been distant since the death of Gwen’s father. Gwen was turned away when she realized her mother had started a new family. May tells her she always has a home at the ‘crazy’ Parker house. Iron Man interrupts their reconciliation when he descends from the sky looking for Spider-Man.
Hot to the Torch: The colors by Justin Ponsor continue to impress in this story. I was quick to give Sara Pichelli and David Lafuente credit for their work in issue 152, so now I’ll focus on the other aspect of the art. Ponsor has a nice range of colors used throughout the issue and balances the different scenes featuring the two storylines. The night scenes involving Mysterio and Black Cat have nice darker shades of greens and blues, while the Parker family scenes are brighter, with yellows and reds.
The character interactions continue to help make this a compelling story. The differences between Bobby and Johnny, from the way they dress to the way they flatter girls, are as polar opposite as their powers; the main similarity between them is their eagerness to use their powers. They serve as a great angel and devil tandem on Peter’s shoulder, although I’m not so sure Bobby is much of an angel, so it could just be two devils. Johnny’s claim that the Fantastic Four “were the Beatles of super heroes” was a nice comedic line, even more humorous when he is still talking about the comparison in the next issue.
May’s affectionate bond with Gwen is a nice development. The relationship between May and Peter may not have been as strong as the one between Peter and his uncle Ben, so it’s nice that May has that young female niece- or granddaughter-type of character to connect with.
Black Cat’s hesitation when faced with assassinating the Kingpin shows the character’s compassionate side. She further refuses Mysterio’s invitation and wishes to stay out of the larger criminal activities in which he is involved. Her fight against the villain is admirable, but short lived.
The Ice Cold: Black Cat is the main focus of this story. She is used well in some brief moments that are used to develop her character’s emotions and incentives, but she doesn’t last very long in a battle with Mysterio before tucking her tail and running. I am not familiar with Black Cat’s powers in the Ultimate Universe, but it seems to me that pulling a massive safe out of a wall would still require a great deal of strength. Still she does it fairly easily with suction cups on her hands.
Lana, the newest addition to the group’s lunch table, brings a healthy serving of censored swear words, keeping with her foul-mouthed reputation. I’m not sure why the three boys were all sitting on one side of the lunch table when no one was sitting across from them, unless it was just easier to draw them that way. Mysterio continues to underwhelm me as a villain in the Ultimate Universe. He displays no tricks or illusions, like his Amazing counterpart. His only effect appears to be disguising his head within a swirling, blue fog.
The cover art by Lafuente is not as nice as the art by J. Scott Campbell’s work on the cover of #152. None of the Ultimates standing behind Spidey, appear to have any chins.
The Ultimate: I should just call this section “The Black Cat” or “The Parkers,” because there’s not a whole lot of Ultimate Spidey action to focus on. In fact, there’s actually none. However, since there needs to be an Ultimate moment, I will give it to Mysterio. Despite my early aversion to the character, knocking off the Kingpin is a good way for him to get things going.
Rating: Good story, art and character development. Meh, writing. Poor, action. 4/5 Ultimate Spidey and Friends.